We just got the announcement that lane snapper will be closing on after the 17th of October which is absolutely wild news. This is an ACL closure or a closure caused because the landings are projected to meet the overall acceptable biological catch (ACL). This is wild because the ACL should be 578,000lbs not the 301,000lbs currently causing the closure. The gulf council talked about this originally in January of 2020 after the Science and Statistical Committee or SSC voted to increase the catch levels in 2019 based of the new data presented as an update to the recent lane assessment.
They used the mandatory reporting data that party boats provide to prove the fishery is healthy, vibrant and needed a nearly doubled catch level! However, the council intended to make this now doubled ACL final rule in April 2020 but due to covid that meeting was canceled. Once meeting again, unfortunately states arguing over red snapper calibration took precedence and the council didn’t get back to the lane snapper document to finalize it until January 2021. They then submitted it to NOAA fisheries in March 2021 for rule making. Well its October now and NOAA still hasn’t implemented the final rule based on the council’s January 2021 vote. Due to this instead of the nearly 600,000lb lane snapper ACL we are stuck at 301,000lbs and the fishery was closed. Luckily NOAA fisheries new Regional Administrator, Andy Strelcheck, who replaced Dr. Crabtree is putting his team to work to do whatever they can to re open the fishery as soon as they can by hurrying the rule making on the increase lane snapper catch level, but the soonest this could happen would be mid November due to the issues and time delays in the rule making process.
Long story short, state data calibration for red snapper ruined our chance to get the lane snapper document through the council more timely and the NOAA fisheries agency didn’t account for the time issues when going into rule making. Really this is a great example of how the state of florida can be sometimes screwed because of our great fishery. Things like gag grouper, red grouper, lane snapper, hogfish and others are only caught here in the gulf and the council, the agency and many in fisheries management can focus too much on the gulf wide species like red snapper, amberjack, cobia, kingfish, vermillions and others that are more discussed at the council level since they are of interest to all five gulf states not just Florida. Needless to say, this is a huge oversight and failure on the part of fisheries management and I have learned a hard lesson.
Just because a rule passes the council level doesn’t mean I can sit back and relax now you got to watch NOAA and prod the agency to make sure the rule making gets done in a timely fashion.